During the current coronavirus pandemic, businesses across the world have had to adapt in myriad ways as in-person services and office spaces have been disrupted. Some businesses have not found ways to adapt and remain closed, while others have been able to change on the fly and continue to operate. Remote work has become a new norm for many.
But what does all of this mean for the future? In a post-pandemic world, will remote work infrastructure need to be available indefinitely to prepare for future disease spread? Will some workers simply stay remote?
Let’s take a look at the future of remote work.
As mentioned, some businesses were much more prepared for adapting to remote work than others. Many tech companies that already had significant numbers of remote workers and work from home policies have found it easy to go remote with office teams. However, industries like manufacturing, where in-person work is essential, have not been able to take the same approach. Many have had to adapt on-site operations to meet social distancing guidelines. Further, many other factors like access to computers at home, employee tech proficiency, company culture, and unaddressed security risks for remote workers have prevented some companies from fully adapting, regardless of industry.
There are some setores where cultivating remote work in our newly changed world may be a key to survival and growth. Educational institutions have had to adapt to online learning and working quickly. Many universities have switched to online courses for their current semesters, and some may be moving towards doing the same in the fall of 2020. With potential future outbreaks following the current situation, it’s very possible that remote working and learning may become a new norm at least some of the time for universities.
Healthcare is another industry where remote adaptation has been essential for some. For those healthcare providers deemed non-essential during the pandemic, telehealth has become a lifeline to an otherwise inaccessible portion of their patient bases. Therapists, primary care physicians, dentists, and others have launched remote care options to continue treating and advising patients. During continued shifts in disease spread in the future, this may be the key to making non-emergency care possible.
As alluded to before, access is a key part of making remote work systemically possible. Many employees do not currently have the equipment needed to work from home. They may not have the training or familiarity to efficiently work remotely either. Companies that can work to address these disparities may be able to make remote work accessible to more employees.
Additionally, remote work itself is accessible at different levels to different groups of people depending on their industry. While information workers are much more likely to be able to work remotely, service industry workers have a much harder time given the structures of job duties. Macrosocial disparities also impact who gets access to remote work. When you add in just the layers of educational attainment and class, the disparities in the data grow even more. Many workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher have the option to work from home. Those with less educational attainment have the option at a much lower rate. Higher wage white collar jobs often tend to skew towards remote accessibility too. High wage employers are often more likely to offer equipment and training to make it possible.
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